JERUSALEM, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar said 773 asylum seekers left Israel under the voluntary emigration program in January -- a dramatic increase from recent months.
The program gives a cash payment to those who choose to leave.
The number of asylum seekers leaving the country has increased as immigration officials have increased the grant from $1,500 to $3,500 per person, Ynetnews.com reported.
In December, 325 asylum seekers left Israel, and in November, only 63 left.
Records indicate that 2,612 people took part in the program in 2013.
"We will continue to work towards the goals we set: encouraging the voluntary deportation of 'infiltrators' from Israel and a reduction in the number of 'infiltrators' in the cities," Sa'ar said.
Human rights groups, including the Center for Refugees and Immigrants, have criticized the program, as the only other alternative is to stay incarcerated in Israel.
"The 'voluntary' emigration is a result of the heavy psychological pressure put on asylum seekers who are jailed, lonely, and desperate which includes threats and lies," the center said in a statement.
The temporary order authorizing the grants is valid until the end of March.